Celtic ended their first Champions League match since 2018 on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline, but generated a great deal of excitement for the campaign ahead during a thrilling first hour in which they twice should have taken the lead against Real Madrid.

What becomes of Ange Postecoglou’s first foray at the peak of club football depends on their next four matches, two against each of Shakhtar Donetsk and RB Leipzig, before the return bout with Real at the Bernabéu. The task looks tougher than first thought after the unfancied Shakthar ran out 4-1 winners away in their opener, but the gusto with which Celtic applied themselves means they won’t die wondering.

‘Over the years, we’ve been conditioned to Scottish clubs dominating football domestically, but then when it comes to Europe going into our shells, sticking ten men behind the ball and relying on the counter-attack and set pieces’, The Athletic’s Kieran Devlin told Box2Box.

‘Postecoglou threw out the rule book when it comes to what Scottish teams can do in Europe. There were important lessons to be learned and this is still a team in its European infancy, they still need to grow and get more experience, and that will come with time.

‘But it was so exciting, so encouraging, to see Postecoglou’s football thrive against, technically, the best team in Europe last season.’

Celtic’s next match will be away to Shakhtar on Wednesday evening (Thursday 2:45am AEST), for which they’ll be well rested given their weekend league fixture against Livingston has been postponed. The Shakhtar meeting will shape expectations of how far they can go, with entrance to the Europa League for third placed finishers on offer if the top two proves too tough.

‘Everyone got slightly carried away, as you do when you’re in your first Champions League group for five years and playing brilliant football domestically, thinking this should be a cinch for third and maybe even compete for second’, said Devlin.

‘I do think the Shakhtar result changes things a bit. They’ve got a brilliant young forward who’s also a former Celtic player, Marian Shved, who scored twice against Leipzig. So that’s maybe revised opinions.

‘Second [place] would be incredible and this team is obviously capable of it, but I think third is a more realistic target. They are still a team in progress at European level. Ange’s post-match interview showed he was visibly distraught, he wanted to win, and I really hope that is instilled into the players and fans, that we’re not just here for a great atmosphere and lose 3-0.’

A 4-0 hammering of Rangers in the season’s first Old Firm derby last week showed Celtic have domestic affairs under control, with focus therefore firmly on scratching the nagging itch of recent continental failures that don’t align with the club’s enormous historic standing.

‘The expectation domestically is to win the league again, as well as a couple of cups. Celtic haven’t won a European knock-out tie after Christmas since 2004, so they’ve severely underperformed for decades now.

‘You can see how badly Ange wants to prove himself in Europe, and players who have been at the club a long time in James Forrest and Callum McGregor recognise the importance of that, and how frustrating it has been for supporters.’